January 15th, 2009
12:15 PM ET
9 years ago

Holder: W.H. should act 'within the dictates' of wiretap law

Attorney General designate Eric Holder discussed a federal wiretap law during his confirmation hearing Thursday.

Attorney General designate Eric Holder discussed a federal wiretap law during his confirmation hearing Thursday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Asked during his confirmation hearing Thursday whether the president has an "inherent authority" to engage in warrantless surveillance, Attorney General designate Eric Holder said the president would be "well advised" to work "within the dictates" of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Holder indicated that a president's power to conduct surveillance is "at its zenith" when the president acts in concert with the intent of Congress as laid out in FISA.

He also said that the U.S. Army Field Manual would be a "good place to start" for the purpose of establishing a uniform standard for torture techniques. He indicated that he did not believe that restricting interrogations to the rules of the Field Manual would impair the ability of the government to successfully combat terrorism.

Holder noted that law enforcement tools like the Patriot Act had to be enforced in a manner consistent with the country's values and "great tradition" of supporting civil liberties.

When asked whether he would support a criminal investigation of Bush administration officials for possible violations of national security and civil
liberties laws, Holder responded that while "nobody is above the law," he also didn't "want to criminalize policy differences that may exist" between the outgoing and incoming administrations.

Filed under: Eric Holder • Obama transition
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Ken in Dallas

    If the president has powers not granted to him by legislation, what are those powers, where do they come from, and what are their limits? If he has the power to pick and choose laws with which he will and will not comply, is his power unfettered and absolute? Is this what the Constitution was written to support?

    January 15, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  2. Jeff in Illinois

    Every person found to have wiretapped someone who is not a terrorist should be hung for treason. That's how important the Constitution is to this nation.

    I'm fine with wiretapping enemy combatants, but the government has a funny way of applying the Patriot Act and other such measures where they don't belong. If the protections for Americans are not included in legislation, it is a guarantee they will be mis-applied.

    January 15, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  3. Lyndon from CA

    USA=Police State

    January 15, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  4. obama-mama

    You're free to go Bush

    January 15, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  5. Illinois

    Is he another Democrat from Illinois?

    January 15, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  6. Jim

    Here, here. If we let our fear run our lives and allow our civil liberties like right to privacy to be stepped on and ignored than we are allowing the terrorists to win. I for one do not want to give up for freedom in exchange for safety.

    January 15, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  7. Matt

    Who asked Holder if he'd support criminal investigations of Bush? Was it a Dem or a GOPer?

    January 15, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  8. David S.

    I couldnt careless if the military used torture on terrorists. They are not prosoners of war but animals with no respect for life and have no problem with torturing our people. When you are in a life and death struggle, there is no room for high moral ground.

    January 15, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  9. Tim

    Doesn't the army field manual say that you can only ask for name, rank and serial number? If so, how would that not impair the ability of the government to combat terrorism?

    I also liked his "at its zenith" comment. In other words, the president can do what he wants, but he is best advised to do what Congress wants. Sounds to me like that is exactly what Bush did. But Obama is a democrat, so no complaints by the press.

    January 15, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  10. SM

    Yes, Lyndon, we are currently in a Police State concocted and headed by Bush and Cheney. Thankfully, Eric Holder has actually read the Constitution and understands it, and we will soon be abiding by it once more.

    January 15, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  11. Tom in S.A.

    I could give a sh!&^% who listens to me, I have nothing to hide. What freedom am I losing if I don't even know it's going on. Seems to me there are way to many paranoid everybody out to get me people out there. I'M WATCHING YOU!

    January 15, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  12. Mary Jo Carey

    I believe the Attorney General should follow procedure and appoint a Special Prosecutor to look into the behavior of the Bush Administration regarding wire tapping, civil liberties, and the actions at Guantanamo. Even the Supreme Court found the Administration stretching beyond it's legal limits. This is serious business! This is the Constitution of the United States, to which we are bound.

    January 15, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  13. other Jim

    Lyndon from CA January 15th, 2009 1:01 pm ET

    USA=Police State

    You should really get a grip on yourself fellow. The USA is the most free country in the world. We have not lost any constitutional civil liberties during the last 8 years- only your opinion of what was done and your opinion of the liberties guaranteed by the constitution. I wouldn't trade liberty for safety either but we haven't. If you just cool he hate Bush rhetoric and look at the facts. It is pretty clear.

    January 15, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  14. Noel

    But Jim, if our safety is compromised, the terrorists also win. Call me crazy, but I'd rather be alive with a little less freedom than dead with a lot of freedom.

    January 15, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  15. demwit

    Can you say..., judicial impotence.

    January 15, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  16. vic

    Holder will bring law and order back to the government (as it should be). He will not be a puppet.

    January 15, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  17. Jackie in Dallas

    I believe that the President of the United States, like all citizens of this country, should follow the laws of the land. The Patriot Act was badly written and gives authority to do things that are counter to the Bill of Rights, and should be repealed and replaced with reasonable laws. We have three branches to our Government for a reason; they act as checks and balances to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful. This has been violated in the last 8 years, and should be rectified.

    January 15, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  18. karen-Phoenix

    Yea!! This is a man who believes in the Constitution of the United States of America the way it was orginally written, before Bush got his hands on it!!

    January 15, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  19. HollyY

    Torture is not a "policy difference" it's a war crime. Warrantless wire tapping isn't a "policy difference" it's against the law. Prosecute those who have tortured prisoners or authorized the torture of prisoners regardless of how high up they may be. Prosecute those who don't abide by the laws and Constitution of the United States. That's the best way to move forward and to look forward.

    January 15, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  20. Matt

    @ Illinois

    That's right GOPer. When you have no real argument, use slander.

    January 15, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  21. AnnMM

    There are only a dozen or so posts on this thread so far and I agree with every one of them. ... . not to mention their all incredibly well written.

    America without its Bill of Rights and strict adherence to the Constitution is, well, Russia. We were so close to going down that path.................

    January 15, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  22. DP

    You do not want to give up your freedom to privacy but you are more than willing to give up your right to choose a health care plan, education, and so on because the government is paying for it. This is the most insane argument I have ever heard. You only hide behind the Constitution when it serves your purpose. If it doesn't, you scream that it is unfair and try to change it. Well, I believe all of your income taxes are unconstitutional under the 16th Amendment to pay for all of your bailouts, welfare, and medicare. Look even closer and see that this new cigarette tax to pay for expanded SCHIP programs is a direct violation as the tax law as it creates an unfair burden on a select population. Congress only has the power to levy tarriffs in a fair and equal way across all tax payers. Before you call me unloving to kids, I am for health care to all children. We as adults have a responsibility to take care of our young since they do not have their own means. I think there must be a better solution.

    I am all for the Constitution. I believe in the Federalist Papers. Government needs to provide us with security and basic infrastructure needs. Other than these, they neeed to stay out of our business.

    January 15, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  23. Ekbaaaal from South Dakota

    What about Osama Bin Laden???
    How will you curb this Islamic menace plaguing the WORLD?

    January 15, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. California Gold

    Mr. Holder, those whose Constitutional Rights were ignored don't agree that the Bush Administration should be let off the hook. To say it is a "policy difference" and let it go is like saying rape is a "difference in perspective". Lady Justice is wearing a blindfold for a very good reason. You'd be well advised to take off your blinders.

    January 15, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  25. Peter

    This is one of the issues I know Obama and McCain would feel the same. Torture is horrible, and we all know it, that was the one reason I liked McCain, I knew he'd stop torture and Eric Holder is qualified for this job and I believe he will get excepted. If not, it WILL be the republicans fault and if things dont go well for the next few years the Dems will dominate the 2010 elections and then 2012 if they block everything. Obama isnt even president and already the republicans are acting like fools

    January 15, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
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